Support Troops

Despite women's exclusion from combat, a number of societies have routinely used women as support troops

(Goldstein, 2001, pp. 114-115). Cheyenne women occasionally, though rarely, went with war parties, and showed courage equal to the men. Shasta women also occasionally accompanied war parties, cutting enemy bowstrings with knives. They cooked and carried supplies, as did women of the Gabrielino, Hidatsa, Choctaw, and Guiana Amerindians, and the extremely aggressive Mundurucuof Brazil. Apache girls and young women received much physical training, including riding and using knife, bow, and rifle, and were expected to guard camp while males were away. Adult women occasionally joined a raiding or war party, usually to help with cooking, cleaning, and nursing. War prisoners were often taken back to camp for the women (especially those who had lost loved ones in battle) to torture and kill.

Women's participation in torturing and killing prisoners is also found elsewhere. The Konkow sometimes allowed women to participate in torturing captured male enemies. Among the Tupinamba of Brazil, women enthusiastically helped torture prisoners of war to death and then dismember and eat them. Similarly, Kiwai women of Oceania had the special job of "mangling" enemy wounded and then killing them with knives or digging sticks (Turney-High, 1971, p. 162). In 17th-century colonial Massachusetts a mob of women tortured two Indian prisoners to death after overcoming their guards. In the 19th century, Afghan women tortured enemy survivors of battle. In 1993, a mob of Somali women tore apart four foreign journalists (Goldstein, 2001, pp. 114-115).

It is possible for a culture to mobilize women into combat support without taking away their noncombatant protected status. In Papuan warfare, women collected stray arrows and scouted enemy movements, enjoying immunity from attack. Kapauku warfare (New Guinea) extended total immunity to women support troops in the middle of the battle (Goldstein, 2001, p. 115).

In addition to their support roles at the bottom of military hierarchies, women can make effective military leaders. Male soldiers and officers will follow the commands and exhortations of women leaders possessing proper authority. Most women military leaders (but not Joan of Arc), were "warrior queens" who held political power and exercised military leadership from that position. Different stories treat such figures differently—for example, some emphasize their chastity and others their sexual voracity (Fraser, 1989, pp. 11-13; Goldstein, 2001, pp. 116-126).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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